I RECENTLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to reconnect with a very dear friend of mine from what nowadays seems like a different life. She recently determined that she has a sensitivity to dairy products, namely milk. This was entirely different territory for me; no one in my house has ever had a food sensitivity, including my two year old, much less one to milk and dairy, such basic products of our daily existence. She was coming to visit me, and after already having failed once at including her dairy-free needs in my entertaining menu, I was bound and determined to broaden my horizons and make a successful dish for her. Enter: Carrie’s Non-Dairy Friendly Mac and Cheese. I know what you’re thinking – how can any mac and cheese be non-dairy?? The secret is in the Cabot brand cheese, which is naturally lactose-free. She originally directed me to use Cabot Mild, but I was unable to find it in my grocery store, so I used her second suggestion – Cabot Seriously Sharp (look for the red buffalo plaid wrapper). What an amazing cheese! Creamy, robust and simply delicious. This recipe was such a hit with my husband that I had to share it with everyone. You and your family are guaranteed to love it just as much as we do. Enjoy!
Carrie’s Non-Dairy Friendly Mac and Cheese
– 1 16 oz pkg macaroni of your choice, cooked according to package directions
– 2 sticks unsalted butter
– 8 tbsp all purpose flour
– 3 ½ cups lactose-free milk (I used Lactaid)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground black pepper
– 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
– 2 8 oz bricks Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheese, shredded
1) Heat the oven to 350. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the milk. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly. DO NOT let it reach a boil!
2) Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir to combine.
3) Immediately, gradually add the cheese (I do a couple of handfuls at a time) and stir with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted. Be sure cheese is completely melted after each addition. Add the cooked macaroni and stir until evenly blended.
4) Coat a 9x13x2” baking dish lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly and the middle is set. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
– The first time I made this dish, I used elbow macaroni, but any short, small shape will do – for a fun twist for the kids, try bow ties. Small shells would also be lovely.
– If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, this step goes super fast.
– Feel free to turn this into a casserole! It can really take anything that you’d like to put in it. Just remember, since it doesn’t have any eggs in it, it doesn’t need very long in the oven. If you’re going to add any vegetables, sauté them in a little butter or olive oil until they’re slightly tender, just to ensure that they will cook thoroughly during baking. Ideas: broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, cooked shredded chicken, ground beef or sausage, tomatoes … use your culinary imagination! The possibilities are truly endless. Also, don’t be afraid to mix up the seasonings to taste – pretty much any dried or fresh herb will work with this dish. Remember, you need less dried herb than you would fresh.
– Keep in mind that the longer you let the dish sit when you take it out of the oven, the more set the cheese sauce will be – it thickens as it cools.